Truck Driver Geri Malgarini, circa 1979. Image from King County, WA, in Flickr.

Female truck driver

Materials that we take for granted in our daily lives are circulated via transportation organizations that rely on 18 wheels of metal and engine, steered by a driver. As a very demanding job, truck driving entails working long hours, usually in isolation, on long stretches of roads that connect different centers of human activity. The experience of truck driving is one that creates networks of individuals who share a common culture. Yet with the fast approach of self-driving cars and more precise satellite technology, truck driving seems to be another line of work that is threatened to be automated in the upcoming decade. So, the culture that sprang up around transportation of the goods that make up our daily lives, and came to life through the labour of truck drivers, may be in its final stages. This project group aims at capturing a glimpse of a particular experience before this line of work fades: the experience of women long haul truck drivers.

Long-haul trucking is of massive importance to the life and economy of North America, yet women truck drivers are a relatively under-studied facet. Especially as a sector that seeks out diversification (1), it is possible to foresee possibilities for research helping both government and relevant entities to formulate policies that respect and benefit women truckers. Women truck drivers currently make up around 3% of the total truck drivers in Canada (2). Changes in the industry, including declining rates of pay, and a system that favours drivers buying their own tractors puts increasing pressure on all drivers, yet the traditional masculinization of this industry may present other and distinct challenges for women drivers. Alongside working in a culture that is produced through mainly male perspectives; women drivers are also part of this working environment that is so highly mobile and seemingly transient. The truck cabin as a stationary unit crosses boundaries, and ties distant places by transporting materials. Truck driving promises a compelling case through which notions of gender, space, and materiality can be explored. So this study examines how women truck drivers relate to and construct their workspaces through experimental ethnographic methods, namely object and image centered storytelling.

Specifically, we will record accounts of how women truckers construct their work space through meaningful objects they present to us. Also, as the goal is to understand their spatial relation to the workspace, we will ask them to take a picture of their truck-cabin. These two methods rely largely on the respondent’s viewpoint, and seeks to incorporate their voice in the outcome of this research. The overarching aim is to present the depth and diversity of women trucker’s lives, and by uncovering the multiple levels of meaning to be found there, offer perspectives to guide both government and industry towards improving the working lives of these women.


SL Researcher

This research project is directed by the Ethnography Lab.